Since the mid-1980’s, DJ Pierre has remained a prominent and influential figure in the Acid House music movement. Born and raised in Chicago, the DJ made his first appearance on the scene with the band Phuture, a collaboration between Pierre and electronic artists Spanky and Herb J. The band released the EP “Acid Tracks” in 1987, it was the 1st recording to utilize the Roland TB-303 Bass Line synthesizer to create the now-iconic Acid House “squelch” sound. In the early 90’s, Pierre moved to New York and began recording and producing music under Strictly Rhythm records. This past March, Pierre released a new EP entitled, “Acid/Jack Da Groove” under BNR Trax. I gave the EP a listen, and found there was more to the music than initially meets the ear.
The opening track entitled “ACiD,” starts off with little more than a synth bass drum thud for a beat, and proceeds, patiently, to layer rhythmic and melodic lines atop one another, building a quiet, restrained intensity. Halfway through, an unsettling vocal sample is introduced. A male voice, transposed down an octave, repeats the word “acid” over and over again, growing louder and more ecstatic on each repetition until the music finally peaks into a frenzy of synth melodies. The male voice screams and the music is suddenly quieted, reduced to its most basic melodic and rhythmic elements. The last half of the track concentrates on rebuilding its former intensity through introducing a female vocal sample, as well as synth glissandos that operate in the background. It took me multiple listens to discover the subtle complexities of this track, and, in a way, I found that endearing. Which is to say, “ACiD” is not only is trance inducing and danceable, but also quietly intelligent.
The second track harnesses the energy established in “ACiD” and builds on it. Entitled “Jack Da Groove,” the song features an entirely new bank of sounds and vocal samples, including what sounds like the striking a tin can with a drum stick, and a long, involved vocal sample about the birth of house music, in which it’s stated, “No one can declare to own House, because House Music is the universal language known and understood by all!” The song subtly builds intensity through droning, ascending synth lines, and its peak is both grungy and complex. Easily my favorite track on the album.
The third track entitled, “Jack Da Groove (Angel Alanis Remix)” reuses the same vocal samples as heard in the second track, but the music that surrounds the samples is markedly different. A high-pitched, whining synth tone sets the beat, which gradually fades into the background when the vocal sample is introduced. The gradual buildup of energy is similar to that of the previous two tracks, but the arc of the song takes a sudden turn halfway through, when the beat and the melodic line drop out completely, leaving nothing but the vocal sample and a synth floor tom pulsing below. While this track was not the strongest on the album, it was unique enough in its structure to keep my interest. Furthermore, since the first two tracks were so successful, I kept faith that the final track might deliver similar results.
Unfortunately, my feelings towards the final track, entitled “Acid Beats,” were not entirely positive. The initial beat (heavy bass drum and a synth egg shaker) is certainly intriguing, but the song takes too long in developing a new rhythmic structure or melodic line. Around two minutes in, Pierre, strangely enough, chooses to reuse the same vocal sample as heard in “ACiD,” and, from that point forward, the song follows a nearly identical energy curve as track number one. I felt, in some ways, that this track was a cop-out, as very little new material is utilized or explored to its fullest extent.
At first, I wasn’t much enthralled by “Acid/Jack Da Groove.” I found the EP overly sparse and not varied enough in its beats or melodic lines. However, after listening through again, I realized that the music did have something to offer in what wasn’t being expressed. More specifically, the music is very patient in how it develops, and only rarely does it release the energy it slowly accumulates. This tactic keeps the listener physically and mentally entranced by what might happen, rather than what’s actually occurring. Ultimately, “Acid/Jack Da Groove” is a surprisingly intricate and anxious piece of work, and although it loses some steam in its latter half, I’d still consider the EP worthy of multiple listens.